In a small alcove off Old West Street in Walpole, there lies a studio lined with could be considered cubicles for artists.
It's this studio in which Westwood residents Lisa Walker, Kathy Whelan, Jane Wojick, and Henriette Dresens lose themselves to the art of molding wet clay into a hardened, usable masterpiece.
Through their pottery studio, known as Potters Place, the Westwood artists work alongside fellow studio members (there are 23 in all), and a handful of aspiring pottery students.
Staring tomorrow and lasting through the weekend, their work will be on display as part of a "Show and Sale" event, which runs twice a year during the weekend before Mother's Day and the weekend before Thanksgiving. The theme of this event is "Inspired By . . ."
"The few months before the show and sell, people really get the fever of doing it," Dresens said. "And those are the highlights of the year. The whole place gets cleaned up and gets transformed into a gallery, and we have a nice situation that we can leave the pieces there."
Fifteen percent of the sales from the show goes to Potters Place, which is a not-for-profit group. The remaining 85 percent then goes back to the potters themselves, who use it to pay rent for their individual spaces in the studio - the artists' cubicles, so to speak.
Dresens opened the studio in 1980, moving it around the area until finally landing in the current location in Walpole.
"We have such a nice climate in there," Dresens said. "Such a nice relationship with all our fellow potters. It's really unique."
A Westwood resident since 1965, Dresens's journey with pottery began with a small pottery workshop in her basement, which eventually led to her back yard. Eventually, she opened up a small space in the basement of a local hall, where she remained for 10 years, until the building was sold. She then formed a co-op program with fellow pottery students, which eventually led the group to move four times before landing at current location in Walpole.
"When I signed up for my first pottery class, I had done oil painting a couple of years," said Dresens, who is originally from Holland. "The minute I put my hands into the clay, I felt so good about it, and I said, 'This I can do for the rest of my life.' I was looking for an activity to do other than painting. I settled on pottery."
For Walker, Whelan, and Wojick, it was a matter of word of mouth. The three had been involved in the Sheehan Elementary PTA together, and it wasn't long before the three became students at the studio, which eventually led to their membership (all members began as students).
"I love pottery," Whelan said. "I just started taking classes, and I kind of took a vacation from my life. My dad always said, 'Find something that you have to focus on to take you away from every day worries.' And pottery is - for me, anyway - you have to pay attention to what the clay is doing, otherwise it just flops."
Whelan, an instructional aide at Thurston Middle School, is also a quilter, and has been experimenting with bringing that experience into her pottery art.
"It's been really interesting to take some of the skills that I've learned, like cutting skills from quilting, and try to put it on pots," she said. "One of the things that I'm showing this year are these sort of chunky bird chimes, and those birds are something I've been exploring on my quilts for many years, so now I'm exploring them in 3-D."
She added, "Part of the reason I love it here are because of the friends I've made. Not just the people who live in Westwood, but the other potters who share this I-need-to-create-or-else-I'm-going-to-burst feeling."
Walker, meanwhile, holds a studio art degree from Skidmore College, a launching pad for her later artistic endeavors that focused on photography, ceramics and painting. She worked as a visual merchandiser for a woman's clothing store, and later stopped working after giving birth to her second child. She later found she had some extra time to explore art once again, and joined Potters Place as a student in 2004, becoming a member in 2005.
"I came over here and took a class with LIzanne (Donegan, a member at the studio), and I decided I wanted to focus in one area," Walker said. "I'm here working as much as possible . . . you're able to come in here at any time and do whatever you want to do.
"I got to a certain point where I was at a place where I knew, having been away from the clay for a while, that I had a lot of ideas I wanted to work through," added Walker, who also sells her work through her own website. "(Donegan) was the person who said, 'Go out and buy a sketchbook, write down your ideas.' I do that, I have all my ideas in sketchbooks and I'll work from that."
For Wojick, pottery is a way to expand on a journey of self-discovery.
"I grew up in a family where I was not the artist, I was the smart one, so I never pursued art in any way," she said. "I've never done art, and I saw in the paper one day a thing about pottery classes in Walpole, and I was just over 40 and my kids were at the age where I had time."
One thing Wojick finds helpful is watching videos of professional potters fine-tune their craft on YouTube.
"I tend to have a mirror in front of me that I work with, and I think that's because I've been watching YouTube so much . . . I can see what I'm doing in looking at the computer, watching someone else's hands."
Moreover, she finds music to be helpful.
"I have found that I have some attention issues," she said. "If I have music in my ears, I can feel the clay. If I don't, I squash the clay."
Potters Place currently houses four electric kilns that are used to dry the pottery. Two of the kilns are "glaze kilns" once it has been glazed. Potters use recycled clay or clay they buy from Portland Pottery in Braintree.
Students are more than welcome to take classes at the studio, but there is a waiting period of anywhere from six months to two years to become a member.
The Potters Place Show and Sale event begins Friday, running from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The show will resume on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.